When Should I Replace my Central Air Conditioner?

As I write this article it is in the middle of June and it is hot outside. Yesterday the temperatures reached over ninety-five degrees. It is only going to get hotter. As we get into this hot weather there is nothing I like more than coming into a nice cool home after working out in the yard for a few hours.

That cool house though is something that I, and a lot of others, take advantage of. It’s not something that you think about it just happens. Typically, you don’t think about it until something goes wrong with your air conditioner. And, of course, it always go wrong on the hottest day of the year.

In this article we are going to discuss when and if you should replace your older central air conditioner.

When to Replace

First, let’s understand just how long a normal central air conditioner should last. If you look around online or even talk with a few seasoned pros they will all say the same thing. A typical air conditioner will last between ten to fifteen years. Yes, there are always exceptions, but it is over and past that ten year mark when you begin seeing component failures occur.

Now that you know the approximate failure age of air conditioners we can now begin to see when to replace your central system. Before doing anything with their air conditioner most people wait for a failure. Let’s say it’s a hot summer’s day and it’s one-hundred degrees outside. The air conditioner is working overtime trying to reach that seventy-two degrees temperature that you set. Then, at some time during the day, something on the air conditioner fails. It could be a compressor. It could be a capacitor. It could be a number of things. Whatever it is, it needs a repair.

This is where a decision needs to be made. If your system is five years old then the best option is to pay for the repair and move on. (In most cases.) However, if your air conditioner is over ten years old then it is worth seeing how much the repair is going to be.

Is the repair going to cost a few hundred, or close to a thousand? What are the chances that you are going to need another repair in the future? A lot of times once a failure occurs it is only a matter of time before another one happens. When you get that first repair bill you will need to determine if you want to patch the leaky boat or purchase a whole new boat.

If you do decide to purchase a new system there are a few benefits that you will receive. The first is that new systems come with warranties. While most companies may offer a few years warranty I have seen some offer all the way up to ten years. This warranty protects you from unexpected repairs cost down the road.

Another benefit that you’ll see is that older air conditioners lose efficiency with each passing year. So, the energy cost involved in running the same air conditioner new versus when it’s fifteen years old will be quite different. When installing a new system you will see a savings in your energy bill. (This holds especially true if you are replacing an older R-22 refrigerant system to a newer R-410A refrigerant system.)


Alright folks, so now you have a good gauge on when you should replace your central system. Just know that there is no perfect time to do it. In a lot of cases it is a guessing game. If you make this repair now will your air conditioner make it through the rest of the season without any issues? Or, will you experience another failure just a few weeks later?

No one knows for sure what will happen. It is up to you to make that determination.